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"I’ve heard bolder tunes in Supercuts": Sam Smith, Sd Laika, Karenn and more reviewed in the FACT Singles Club

Each week on the FACT Singles Club, a selection of our writers work their way through the new music of the week gone by.

With the way individual tracks are now consumed, the idea of what constitutes a single has shifted dramatically in the last half a decade, and its for this reason that the songs reviewed across the next pages are a combination of 12″ vinyl releases, mixtape cuts, Soundcloud uploads and more. All are treated equally – well, most of the time. On the chopping block this week, SD Laika, Sam Smith, Karenn and more.

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SD Laika- ‘Meshes’

Chal Ravens:
Every single bar of this fucker evades regular description, from the voodoo farmyard battlecry that kicks it off to the clouds of killer hornets Sufi whirling their way through the clanging, rusted percussion. I’ve run out of metaphors and this is possibly the best thing I’ve heard this year. (9)

Scott Wilson: I’m still on the fence as to whether Sd Laika represents quite the second coming his signing to Tri Angle might have some people believe – especially when there are producers like Logos, Filter Dread and Slackk all doing equally as strange things from the starting point of grime – but there’s no denying that ‘Meshes’ does its own thing. The rusty nails-in-a-tin percussion and knackered accordion chords actually sound more like Egyptian electro shaabi than grime, with its own nightmarish character. (8)

Kristan Caryl: Totally bananas and titillating bizarre, but for that alone it deserves a decent score, because I’d rather be offended by the sound of the tortured bovine at 1.22 than bored to tears by another middle-of-the-road deep house pastiche. (6)

Josh Hall: Music for the carnival at the end of the world. (8)

Joe Muggs: There are a select few electronic producers who make sounds that somehow register with your brain as “real” – as if something physical is being walloped, scraped, crushed or blown – even though they are clearly acoustically impossible. Jeff Mills and Aphex Twin spring to mind – sounds that make everything else feel plastic and cheaply synthetic in comparison… and it seems this lad can do that too. Love. (9)

Chris Kelly: Obscured, violent, oppressive… perfect. Probably not what he intended with the title, but this one manages to mesh disparate parts quite well. (8)

Joe Moynihan: Can we all gas about how fucking levels the title of SD Laika’s debut album is for a moment? When you think about what Laika does in his tunes, which sounds like disembowelling anything remotely tasteful or functional about a style of music – in ‘Meshes’ case, Funky – and making a brilliant, offensive mess around its barebones, then it couldn’t be more appropriate. If you’re the sort of person who thinks functionality and bait hooks brings shame to the underground, then you can rely on honourable Laika to draw for the tantō. (9)


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Sam Smith – ‘Money on my Mind’

Scott Wilson:
Recently the Scottish comedian Limmy provided a hilariously spot-on critique of Pitbull’s unexplained appearance in our collective psyche, and there’s obviously something equally as fishy going on regarding Sam Smith, who should by rights have languished in X Factor Bootcamp for eternity. Worse still, the lyrics to this song are just trolling anyone stupid enough to buy it: “I don’t have money on my mind, I do it for the love”, he sings. You might well believe that Sam, but I’d cash in while those BBC Sound of 2014 and BRITs Critics’ Choice awards still mean something to the brainwashed members of the public serving your money-hungry Illuminati overlords. (2)

Joe Moynihan: “I don’t have money on my mind, I do it for the love” sings Sam above the least offensive thing Two Inch Punch has put his name to, in a voice destined to soundtrack your mum checking the lottery numbers on a Saturday night. Look, I know this tune was only included here to bring up any bile we might have had left this weekend, but this was just cruel, man. This shit is such superficial bollocks; I’ve heard bolder tunes whilst getting a trim in the Supercuts in Liverpool Street station. (0)

Kristan Caryl: My wife said this sounds like two songs playing at once, and she’s right.  It’s almost as if the nut-crunching falsetto was sung at a completely different meeting to the one where the hyperactive fairground beats were produced.  Lovely funereal overcoat, though. (3)

Josh Hall: With the exception of a decent hook on the chorus, this is flabby, featureless music. Pointless vocal gymnastics can’t hide the fact that this is a Capitol-signed artist with a presumably outrageous advance, in whose every career move to date you can see nothing but the profit motive, singing about how he doesn’t care about money. Seems legit. (4)

Chal Ravens: Illuminati pop. I suspect he’ll be number one by the time anyone reads this, so all I can offer is a note of chastisement to the British public: you’ve only got yourselves to blame. (3)

Joe Muggs: Well leaving aside cheap jibes like “how much ‘love’ did this video cost, then?”, and ignoring the facts that the drum beat on this is like some particularly lame indie-dance record from 1990 sped up and his voice on the word “money” in the chorus sounds like a startled rainforest bird, it’s oddly likeable. Solid pop songwriting, and far less clumsily expressed than Jessie J ‘Price tag’… god, that is damning with faint praise. But it is nice. Really. (5)

Chris Kelly: The kid can clearly sing but the self-aware, “revealing” lyrics about record deals do nothing to assuage concerns about him. Oddly souless pop-soul. (4)


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Four Tet & Terror Danjah – ‘Killer’ / ‘Nasty’

Joe Moynihan:
Ronseal. (7)

Scott Wilson: Despite the fact that both of these tracks feel a little like ‘Kool FM’ mark II (especially the synth drone on “Killer”), the input of Terror Danjah brings the kind of weight and gravitas that Hebden’s forays into club music often lack. ‘Killer’ might take a little while to get going, but once that elastic synth line hits it’s pretty tear-out stuff. ‘Nasty’ is the funky track Hebden’s been trying to make for the last five years, with enough aggro bass snarl to keep his floatier tendencies in check. (8)

Josh Hall: This is the first Four Tet record in ages that doesn’t sound horribly affected, and I can only presume that’s because of Terror Danjah’s involvement. ‘Nasty’ is a bit nothingy, but ‘Killer’ is lovely soundsystem grubbiness. (7)

Kristan Caryl: On ‘Killer’, the irksome EDM synth from 2.50 ruins what would otherwise be a decently whacked-out riddim. ‘Nasty’ I dig – it’s compellingly kinetic and that wobbly sub is filthier than your mum. (7)

Chal Ravens: A cut and shut affair, with the bait vocal sample being pretty much all that ties together the grimey getdown of the first half with the techno pulsars of the second half. Which is no bad thing, but the overall effect seems a teensy bit neutered, especially after the stark madness of SD Laika. (7)

Joe Muggs: Sort of wish I hadn’t heard the Sd Laika first because amazing as this is it just sounds too clean and pristine in comparison, and you have to turn it up very loud to shake that off. Objectively, of course, both tracks are amazing, especially the climactic cheesy electrohouse riff bit of ‘Killer’ and the mid section of ‘Nasty’ where it gets down to it. (8)

Chris Kelly: Please listen to FACT’s EVR singles club on this; seems more unfinished and uninspired than anything. (4)


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Jon Hopkins – ‘Collider’ (Karenn Remix)

Audio here

Joe Muggs:
You’re really spoiling us this week. This makes me feel like I’m on 2CB. (7)

Kristan Caryl: You know they have anti-climb paint? Well this could be used as an anti-loitering soundtrack outside suburban corner shops. Beautifully brutal and mindlessly monolithic, it’s about as proper as techno gets, isn’t it? (9)

Josh Hall: Immunity was all just a little bit too broadsheet effete, so it’s lovely to hear a rework with some teeth. Those kick drums are yum. (7)

Joe Moynihan: Karenn’s homebrew blend of kick drums like Russian Rave in a Forest.flv, hats like cats hissing, mid-end percussion like the squelchy noises in the basement of the school in Silent Hill’s otherworld and droney fog like, well, everywhere else in Silent Hill, still tastes like no other. Accept no snapback rebores. (8)

Chal Ravens: Can we take a moment to acknowledge the horror of this waveform? It’s probably the fault of the internet, having undergone some unfortunate compression, I guess – but its fearsome blockiness does give an idea of the intense claustrophobia within. Sounds absolutely ripping on headphones and at home, but not sure I’ve got the strength for it at industrial volume. (6)

Scott Wilson: It feels like Blawan and Pariah’s Karenn material is at its best when there’s some kind of maniacal popper-fuelled glint in their eye (see their remix of Kowton’s ‘TFB’), but the laboured feeling you get listening to the relentlessly punishing kick on this remix of ‘Collider’ is how I imagine they felt making it. Considering what they could have done with the source material, a warehouse-ready kickdrum, some vaguely atmospheric chords and a bit of an acid bassline just don’t really cut it.  (5)


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Jagwar Ma – ‘Uncertainty’ (Mssingno Remix)

Chris Kelly:
Perhaps its the source material, or the rather straightforward pitch-shifting of the vocal loop, but this one didn’t catch me. A reminder that it’ll be tough to top ‘XE2’. (6)

Chal Ravens: An unexpected pairing but Mssingno puts his reliable toolkit of glittery synths, androgynous android vox and womp-womping low-end to expert use on the psychedelic Aussies. Let’s have Moleskin remixing Tame Impala next? (6)

Josh Hall: Jagwar Ma seem to have seeped directly out of 1992’s nether regions. Given the source material Mssingno has done a sterling job here, treating the singer’s voice with the total lack of respect that it deserves. (7)

Kristan Caryl: Can’t get the thought of beany wearing, bus riding London yoots out of my head when this plays. I don’t dislike it, but I also think I’m too old and northern to really love it. (5)

Joe Moynihan: There’s always been more to Mssingno than that dog forever prowling the mall. Is there an igloo setting for reverb I’ve never come across? It’s like he pops all those euphoric bells, basslines, synths and vocals into a bus and drives it into a frozen lake. Even the snares sound like a chisel picking away at all the ice. Whatever he’s up to, he has that shit on lock and I love it. (7)

Scott Wilson: I still remain largely unconvinced as to the merits of Mssigno’s take on the well-worn trope of the pitched vocal, but there’s something undoubtedly fascinating about his ability to completely de-genderise the source material in quite unexpected ways. In its original form Jagwar Ma’s ‘Uncertainty’ is a limp piece of plodding Aussie electro rock of the type that should have died out with the Kitsune Maison compilation at least five years ago, but in Mssingno’s hands it becomes some kind of futuristic R&B anthem. (7)

Joe Muggs: Hrmmm. Not really getting much from this. That flat, affectless vibe on the production and the vocal makes it seem like sort of grime-electroclash, which could be sort of great, but sort of isn’t. It’s just sort of kind of y’know… cool and stuff, or whatever. (4) 


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Pearson Sound – ‘Raindrops’

Kristan Caryl:
Curveball. Was expecting some rigid, loopy machine shit, not a sleepy iPhone alarm tone. It sure is nicely soft focus and celestial, but it seems to exists more as a demo of what sounds a synth can make, rather than as a fully formed bit of music. (7)

Joe Moynihan: I am a very sad cunt who spends a lot of my free time putting SMS alert jingles through various reverb/decay plugins and then staring at videos of rainy traffic. So thank you Rama for one, making me feel like I’m not alone in this, and two, making the perfect soundtrack for it so that the amount of thinking I have to put into that pastime is reduced to zero. For real though, the subtle automation nuances that I’ve always loved in Pearson’s work, whatever alias he’s operating under, have never sounded so good. For a producer whose percussion gets as many people talking as it does dancing, I’m glad his equally refined soft elements are getting the spotlight they equally deserve. (10)

Chal Ravens: Were I to make an arthouse romantic drama about a snorkelling expedition in the Galapagos Islands, I’d know where to go for my soundtrack. Pearson Sound without drums seemed like a very stupid idea until this. (7)

Scott Wilson: The similarity of ‘Raindrops’ to some of Actress and Zomby’s work is fairly obvious, and both versions of the track are fairly slight as far as composition goes, but regardless, there’s something faintly compelling about David Kennedy’s rippling take on zero gravity grime. (6)

Joe Muggs: Very good, but it could even do with doing a bit LESS. (7)

Chris Kelly: I’m all for artists trying new things, but when the percussion is so critical to Pearson Sound, why forgo it completely? (5)

Josh Hall: I really want to love this, and it’s nearly very beautiful, but I think I’ll listen to Koreless instead. (6)



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Final scores:

SD Laika- ‘Meshes’ (8.1)
Jon Hopkins – ‘Collider’ (Karenn Remix) (7)
Four Tet & Terror Danjah – ‘Killer’ / ‘Nasty’ (6.9)
Pearson Sound – ‘Raindrops’ (6.9)
Jagwar Ma – ‘Uncertainty’ (Mssingno Remix) (6)
Sam Smith – ‘Money on my Mind’ (3)

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